I landed just inside the main tunnel to the Warren. I was bright, and green, flowers were everywhere, a perfect eternal spring. I took a deep breath and started walking.
I searched for over an hour, he wasn't at the dye river, not at the egg fields either. I crossed off the paint flowers as I flopped down on a sloping green hill. This shouldn't be as hard as it is. He's a six foot one giant anthromorphic rabbit for crying out loud. I sulked into the grass. Should have brought carrots.
As I glared into the ground an egglet waddled up to me. Its shell was painted a light pink, with orange and blue swirls. I picked it up and admired it as it stood in my palm.
"You wouldn't happen to know where your maker is, huh little thing?"
It jumped from my hand and started to walk away toward a moss covered rock face. I followed. I had nothing better to do, and I was out of ideas. It lead me behind a few large boulders, and past one or two guard sentries that gave me a once over before turning away. When we cleared the rocks I saw it. I thought it was another boulder at first, but the dark wooden door caught my attention.
Nestled safely between the boulder maze, and the mountainous rock face, was what looked like a hobbit house. This had to be Aster's personal burrow. I looked down to the egglet.
"Is he inside?"
The egg just waddled to the door. I knocked, and called out, but there was no answer. I pushed the door open and walked in.
The burrow was just as I'd imagined: packed dirt floors and walls, arching hallways, rustic wood furniture, no doubt handmade. The kitchen housed a wood burning stove, glazed clay dishes, and metal cutlery. There was a pile stacked high in the cast iron sink. I made and face and thought- If he's not gonna be here for a bit, the least I can do is clean up. I started with the sink.
After the dishes we done and put away, I migrated to the next mess. I picked up linens, wiped down dusty surfaces, straightened nick-knacks, and even made a salad with green apples for when Aster came in. I kept it in a covered bowl encasing it with a decent layer of frost to keep it fresh.
I moseyed through the burrow looking at the walls. Most were covered in murals. One was filled with images of Sandy, and looked to be the oldest. The former star was flitting through the sky on a cloud of his golden dreamsand. The world below him was not one I was familiar with. Pooka like Aster, but smaller, seemed to be running after him with grins on their faces. A grey one at the front drew my gaze, and I smiled.
The next wall I came across was brightly done up with greens, blues, purples and yellows. Tooth flew proudly above her palace, holding a sword in front of her. The walls of her towers faintly glittered gold in the low light. The mini fairies were here and there, and seemed to be everywhere down the stretch of wall. A dark figure shaped like a monkey seemed to plummet to the jungle below.
The third hallway was filled with blues and whites. A man with black hair and a short black beard laughed around a fire, surrounded by others. His red coat swallowed his frame as he held up fistfuls of treasure. This was what North must have looked like. I chuckled, unable to imagine him any other way. They group sat in the middle of an encampment of Russian stylized tents, dozens of fires roared all around.
I was about to turn down a darker hall when a furry hand grabbed my shoulder.
"What the hell do ya think you're doin' in here!" Aster growled. I flinched at his tone.
"I was looking for you, the egg led me here." I rushed.
"You've no right to be here, get out!" He shoved me toward the door.
"Aster I'm- " I tried.
"LEAVE JACK!" He shouted at me. He looked furious, like in sixty-eight. I gripped my staff in front of me as I backed up.
"I'm sorry! I can explain!"
He started speaking, so fast I could barely make it out. The last sentence though, I did. But I wish I hadn't.
"Ní féidir a fheiceáil fiú nuair nach bhfuil tú ag iarraidh! A dhéanamh tú praiseach i ngach áit! "(Can't even see when you're not wanted! You make a mess everywhere!")
I stared at him, and the hurt on my face must have shown because his face drooped.
"Jack…" He voiced, subdued.
"I get it. If I'm not wanted, I'll leave. Sorry to make such a mess by cleaning." I turned and sprinted to the door. I didn't even realize I'd answered him until I heard him shout my name. I didn't look back; I couldn't let him see me cry.
I flew on default, not really caring where I went. This day had gone to shit faster than anything I could think of. I had planned on asking him to give me a chance, and now I'm running away from him. The wind set me down next to a fir tree at the bank of my pond. I smiled as she ruffled my hair.
"Are congratulations in order?" A suave British voice beckoned from behind me. Koz came up and placed a hand on my shoulder. I turned and leaned into him before he could realize.
"No. It's not." I mumbled into his robes.
"What did he do?" The Nightmare King hissed.
"I messed up. Tried to explain, but he told me I wasn't wanted there… that I always mess things up." I hated that I sniffled.
"What happened, Jack?" He asked, much gentler.
I recounted my day. How got the tooth box, went to see him. I told him about being led to the burrow, and he different hallways, then Aster's anger.
Koz sighed like he understood.
"Those halls once housed his family. He had dug those rooms for a future with a mate, and kits. It seems that he has yet to let old ghosts lie. I'm sorry you had to endure his anger. I'd be more than happy to avenge you." He said with a smirk.
"No, thanks. He's mad enough already." I said with a laugh. He brought his arms up and gave me a brief hug.
"What are you planning to do now?" He asked.
"I was just gonna go back to the Pole. Regroup there. Jamie says people stuff themselves with ice cream when their sad to feel better. I'm gonna see if that helps." I cage him a wry grin.
At the Pole I sat in the den watching the fire. The frozen treat wasn't helping, but I ate the whole carton anyway. It's not like North would miss it. He had a walk in freezer filled with the stuff. Vlad had found me soon after I arrived and had planted himself in my lap, refusing to leave. He turned out to be a pretty good listener.
"I just don't get it. I thought I was doing right. Granted it probably wasn't as smooth as it should have been, but I think I was doing alright." I looked down at him and he nodded.
"We even seemed to be getting along better. He nuzzled me! And did the nose bump thing! That counts as him reciprocating, doesn't it?" Vlad cocked his head. I sighed.
"I just wanted a chance." I mumbled. Vlad patted my arm and offered me a half-eaten cookie.
From behind me I heard North raise his voice- "You're temper will be the end of you, Bunny!" Then there was a crash. I ducked down, making myself as small as I could. Aster was here! Shit. Maybe Vlad could distract him so I could leave. I could go bother Koz some more. That was always fun.
"I know that, ya blow hard! I just need to know if he's here!" Aster said.
"Why would I tell you that? So you can yell at the poor boy again?"
"No! I need to apologize, to explain! I don't want to lose my chance with him, and the longer you keep flappin' your gums the less time I have to make it right."
I heard North sigh and could picture him stroking his beard.
"Please Nick. I know I messed up, but I wanna make it right. Have ya seen the snowflake or not?" Aster muttered. He sounded tired.
"Da. He is here. Find Easter Elf. He will know where Jack is. I warn you though, my friend. Break his heart, and I will rip yours out." The jolly man threatened. I winced. That's when Vlad decided to jump down and race off towards the two older Guardians. I heard his little bell jingling and soon heard tiny footsteps, and larger padded ones come around to face me. I didn't even bother pretending to be asleep, just watched as the Easter Bunny crouched in front of me.
"Ya heard all that, I assume?" He asked. I nodded.
"I'm sorry snowflake. I was outta line back there. You've got me all out of sorts with this whole courtin' thing. I can't think straight." He looked down, ears pressed flat against his back.
"It's okay. Koz told me why you got so mad. I shouldn't have gone barging into your space like that." I told him, sitting up.
"That's not an excuse to say what I did. You are wanted, and you don't make messes. You fix more of ours than make ones of your own." He smirked at me, eliciting a smile.
With the tension mostly gone, I figured this was as good a time as any so I braced myself and took out the tooth box.
"I need to tell you something." I started. Then took a deep breath.
Nídóigh liom go bhfuil i bhfad a thairiscint, díreach tar éis mo chuid cuimhní cinn agus teanga a fhios agat cheana féin. Tá mé bródúil, agus tá mé i gceannas crua. A thabhairt liom tú mo chroí, agus ar mo mhuinín. Ní féidir liom gealltanas nach mbeidh amanna a fháil garbh, ach tá mé ag súil le troid trí iad a dhéanamh ar an dea-uair níos fearr agan deis a dhéanamh tú sásta go mbeadh a dhéanamh ar mo chroí chanadh. Cad a dhéanann tú a rá, Cottontail?" (I don't have much to offer, just my memories and a language you already know. I'm proud, and I'm hard headed but I give to you my heart, and my trust. I can't promise times won't get rough, but I look forward to fighting through them to make the good times better. Having the chance to make you happy would make my heart sing. What do you say, Cottontail?) I asked. God I was scared. I kept my head down through the whole thing.
When I finally looked up he was staring at me like I'd grown a second head that spewed fire. His eyes shone and I worried I screwed up, again. Those thoughts were dispelled, though, when he pulled me to his chest.
"Nach bhfuil mé chuala na focail sin san faid, Jack, atá déanta agat gach rud ceart. Isteach i do lámha ar siúl i mo chroí, vow mé chun tú a chosaint, agus adhair tú. Níl mé an éasca a fháil ar a bhfuil an oiread, ach tá súil agam a bhlaiseadh ar an dea-uair a rinne milse trí shárú an olc. Tá mé ag onóir agus a shárú chun glacadh leis."( I haven't heard those words in so long, Jack, you've done everything right. Into your hands I place my heart, I vow to protect you, and adore you. I'm not the easiest to get on with either, but I hope to savor the good times made sweeter by overcoming the bad. I'm honored and humbled to accept.) He said and pressed his nose to my neck in a nuzzle that made me frost. I brought my arms around his neck and buried my face in the ruff at his shoulder. Peeking over, I saw Koz. He smiled warmly at my mouthed 'Thank you' and melted into the shadows.
I never knew asking for a favor would grant me a new family member, and a chance at the happiness I'd always dreamed of.
I hope this ended up alright. My imagination isn't working like I want it to thanks to life events at the moment, but I like how it worked out. I hope you all did too! Thank you all for sticking with the story! I love you all!